Best of Jackson 2018: Music and Nightlife

Photo courtesy Duling Hall

Photo courtesy Duling Hall

Best Place to Drink Cheap; Best Open-Mic Night; Best Service-Industry Hangout: Fenian's Pub


Imani Khayyam / File Photo

(901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, fenianspub.com)

Fenian's Pub is always a crowd favorite in many categories, but it has the longest history with three titles in particular. The bar has won Best Place to Drink Cheap for the past four years, Best Service-Industry Hangout for the past two years, and Best Open-Mic Night for a whopping eight years running.

Fenian's three titles this year often go hand in hand, as the bar is always open late and its long-running open-mic night provides something fun and free to do, whether you're just coming to kick back or participate. The bar offers 32 varieties of Irish whiskeys, along with plenty of beer and signature cocktail options. Fenian's kitchen also stays open until midnight Monday through Saturday and until 11 p.m. on Sundays, making it a go-to spot for folks who get off work late.

"People can come and always expect to have a good time," Ryan Cassell, Fenian's general manager and chef, says. "It's a place where people from around town can hang out and enjoy, and we do a happy-hour discount for (service-industry workers) if they come in anytime after 10 p.m." —ShaCamree Gowdy

Best Place to Drink Cheap Finalists: Fondren Public (2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589, fondrenpublic.com) / Martin's Restaurant & Bar (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712, martinsbar39201.com) / Pop's Saloon (2636 S. Gallatin St., 601-961-4747) / Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526)

Best Open-Mic Night Finalists: Offbeat Comedy Open-Mic (Offbeat, 151 Wesley Ave., 601-376-9404, offbeatjxn.com) / Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700, oletavern.com) / Synergy Nights at The Med Bar & Grill (1200 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-0082)

Best Service-Industry Hangout Finalists: Kemistry Sports Bar & Hookah Lounge (3716 Frontage Road N., 601-713-1500) / Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526) / The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 769-257-3517, apothecaryjackson.com) / WonderLust (3911 Northview Drive, 337-378-9003)

Best Beer Selection (Restaurant); Best Place to Watch the Game: The Bulldog


Photo courtesy The Bulldog

(6111 Ridgewood Road, 601-978-3502, bulldog-jackson.draftfreak.com)

The Bulldog's general manager, Valerie 
Alexander, says the restaurant and bar valued variety in its beer taps and bottle options even before that was easy.

"We've been here since 2007 at The Bulldog with 62 taps, and back then, we didn't really have as big of a selection as we get now in the state," she says. "Now that we have the opportunity to get things that we've never been able to get before, our forte is rotating our taps and keeping new stuff in stock."

Along with Best Beer Selection (Restaurant), this is The Bulldog's first year to win Best Place to Watch the Game since 2013, but Alexander has an easy answer for why Jacksonians would choose the business for that category.

"Probably just because we have a ridiculous number of televisions," she says with a laugh.

The Bulldog has TVs throughout the bar and plays game audio through its main sound system, and the number of excited fans who come out for sporting events makes for a fun atmosphere, as Best of Jackson voters clearly know. —Micah Smith

Best Beer Selection (Restaurant) Finalists: Barrelhouse (3009 N. State St., 769-216-3167, barrelhousems.com) / Fondren Public (2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589, fondren
public.com) / Saltine Restaurant (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899, saltine
restaurant.com) / The Pig & Pint (3139 N. State St., 601-326-6070, pigandpint.com)

Best Place to Watch the Game Finalists: 4th & Goal Sports Cafe (5100 Interstate 55 N., 769-208-8283, 4thgoal.com) / Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845, capitol
grillofjackson.com) / Fondren Public (2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589, fondren
public.com) / Last Call Sports Grill (1428 Old Square Road, 601-713-2700) / The Feathered Cow (1040 Spillway Circle, Suite A5, Brandon, 601-605-0414, featheredcow.com)

Best Blues Artist/Group: Chris Gill


Photo courtesy Chris Gill


After being a finalist in the past two Best of Jackson competitions, musician Chris Gill has taken the title of 2018's Best Blues Artist/Group.

The Birmingham, Ala., transplant has been playing blues music for about 30 years, and performs in the Jackson metro area as a solo artist, member of duo D'Mar & Gill, and as frontman for the Sole Shakers and the Mississippi Boogie Krewe. He and the latter group recently represented Mississippi in the 2018 International Blues Challenge, making it to the semifinals.

"I fell in love with the blues the first time I heard it," Gill says. "It moved something deep in my soul, and I knew playing the blues was what I'd do the rest of my life. I'm grateful that the people of Jackson voted for me. It feels good when the people at home say, 'Yeah.'" —Brinda Fuller Willis

Finalists: Dexter Allen (dexterallen.com) / Grady Champion / Jesse Robinson / Scott Albert Johnson (scottalbertjohnson.com) / Stevie J Blues

Best Bar: Fondren Public


Trip Burns/File Photo

(2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589, fondrenpublic.com)

Fondren Public, voters' choice for 2018's Best Bar, opened in September 2013 when a group of local investors decided to get together and create a place centered on the idea of community.

Brad Dreher, Fondren Public's general manager, says that beyond its staff, one of the best things about the bar is its atmosphere. The bar creates an environment where Jacksonians and young professionals from around the metro area can interact and socialize the old-fashioned way, he says.

"I think we're a fun place to hang out and get together with friends and have a good time," Dreher says. "Jackson has a ton of great bars, so we're honored to even be in this category. We appreciate everything Jackson has to offer, and it's great that others feel the same way (about Fondren Public)." —ShaCamree Gowdy

Finalists: Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, fenianspub.com) / Library Lounge (Fairview Inn, 734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429, fairviewinn.com) / Martin's Restaurant & Bar (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712, martinsbar39201.com) / The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 769-257-3517, apothecaryjackson.com) / WonderLust (3911 Northview Drive, 337-378-9003)

Best Club DJ: DJ T Money



Walter Murphy III, whom fans know as DJ MMM or DJ T Money, has been spinning since the age of 15.

With more than 16 years of experience, he knows how to rock a crowd. He has toured with Lil Wayne, deejayed for major college sporting events and become a go-to deejay for the fraternities and sororities on college campuses across the country. This is his first year to win the Best Club DJ title in Best of Jackson.

Murphy often begins his events with a prayer giving thanks, which he says both puts him in the right frame of mind and gives him energy for the show ahead.

"I haven't worked a job in 15 years," 
he says. "... When you love what you do, it's a gift, not a job." —Shameka Hayes-Hamilton

Finalists: DJ Glenn Rogers / DJ Money Hungry (myspace.com/demrealchitownboyz) / DJ Phingaprint (pointblankdjs.com) / DJ Taboo (digitaldjpool.com/mitchtaboo)

Best Country Artist/Group: Jason Miller Band


Photo courtesy Jason Miller Band


Best Country Artist/Group is always a competitive category in Best of Jackson, and Jason Miller, vocalist for the Jason Miller Band, says he knows that well. Jacksonians selected the group, which has members in the metro area and around Mississippi, for a third consecutive year.

Miller says he credits the award in part to the band's love of interacting with fans and to the passion of his band mates, drummer Nathan Spears, multi-instrumentalist Topher Brown, bassist Anthony Daniels, and guitarists Jamie Bright and John Andy Bowen.

"I know how passionate each and every one of them are about what they do, and they do it well," Miller says. "I think that just bleeds out through our shows."

The band is currently touring regionally while working on music for an album, which he says they hope to record later this year. —Micah Smith

Finalists: Burnham Road (artistecard.com/burnhamroad) / Chasin' Dixie (601-946-2103) / Young Valley (youngvalleymusic.com)

Best Cover Band: Acoustic Crossroads


Photo courtesy Acoustic Crossroads


After three consecutive years as a finalist, local act Acoustic Crossroads received the most votes for 2018's Best Cover Band title.

Guitarist Sonny Brooks first formed the group as a duo in Leland, Miss., in 2008. He moved to Jackson in 2014 and has since built the band into a five-piece act, which now includes guitarist Rick Moreira, drummer David Cummings, saxophonist Kevin Lewis and bassist Eddie Ingram, all of whom also provide vocals. Singer Chris Link also sits in with the band on occasion.

Brooks says the band covers a variety of music from the '70s, '80s, '90s and beyond, with songs from The Eagles, America, Bob Seger, Peter Frampton and Prince, to name a few.

"I try to be very picky with the songs I choose and take people back in time for them to actually remember what they were doing, where they were at when they heard these songs, and touch people with them," Brooks says. —Micah Smith

Finalists: Burnham Road (artistecard.com/burnhamroad) / Hunter Gibson & the Gators (hunterandthegators.com) / Pop Fiction (601-260-5806)

Best Gospel Artist/Group: The Mississippi Mass Choir


Photo courtesy The Mississippi Mass Choir

([email protected])

It is a safe bet that no other winners in this year's Best of Jackson received a proclamation from the city of Murfreesboro, Tenn., in 2017, but that's the kind of recognition the Mississippi Mass Choir has brought to Jackson and to the state as a whole for three decades. This is the choir's third time in a row to win Best Gospel Artist/Group.

Frank Williams, a member of gospel act The Jackson Southernaires, first formed the group in the late 1980s while he worked for the gospel division of Malaco Records. Since then, the Mississippi Mass Choir has performed around the country and internationally on many occasions. The choir has also made numerous television appearances, including spots on ESPN's "SportsCenter" and ABC sitcom "black-ish" in 2017 alone. —Micah Smith

Finalists: Anderson UMC Sanctuary Choir (Anderson United Methodist Church, 6205 Hanging Moss Road, 601-982-3997, andersonum.org) / Benjamin Cone III & Worship / Jason Gibson & Destiny Project ([email protected]) / The Williams Brothers Gospel (414-699-8357)

Best Singer: Zach Lovett


Photo courtesy Peyton Wofford

(Young Valley, youngvalleymusic.com)

Best Singer is a difficult category to stand out in—triply so when you are in a band with three lead vocalists. This year, voters selected Zach Lovett of Jackson country band Young Valley for the award.

"That really kind of blew me off my feet," he says of his nomination. "I've never really thought of myself like a singer. I always thought that writing was more a strength of mine, ... so it was really humbling to be picked for that one. It's like if I was picked for Best Dancer."

Lovett says he hopes this means that listeners are connecting with the emotions of the music. Fans will hear him sing alongside brother Dylan Lovett and Spencer Thomas when Young Valley releases its self-titled album this April. —Micah Smith

Finalists: Chris Link / Keontrea Thomas / 
Kerry Thomas (artistecard.com/kerrythomasmusic) / Krystal Gem

Best Hip-Hop Artist/Group: Silas



It is no wonder that Jackson rapper Silas Stapleton, known to fans simply as Silas, has won the Best Hip-hop Artist or Group title for three years running.

His first time to win came in 2016 shortly after his single "Gullah Gullah Island" began earning national attention, and his next came a year later after fans were well acquainted with his album, "The Day I Died." It's not just his career that has flourished over the past few years, though.

"Hip-hop is in a better state than it has been in a long time," Stapleton says. "There are lots of good artists and good music being made. ... It's OK to be yourself—that's the message I try to deliver in my music."

On break from tour as of late 
December 2017, he is currently working on music for a follow-up album. —Shameka Hayes-Hamilton

Finalists: 5th Child (5thchildmusic.com) / Coke Bumaye

Best Jazz Artist/Group: The Vamps



It is fitting that Jacksonians voted The Vamps as this year's Best Jazz Artist/Group, given that 2018 is also the ensemble's 20th anniversary. These days, the band, which includes guitarist Barry Leach, vocalist-percussionist Adib Sabir, drummer Denny Burkes, bassist-keyboardist Bob Piecyzk, trumpeter Terry Miller, and saxophone players Kevin Lewis and Todd Bobo, plays more private events than club shows. However, Burkes says that only makes it a more special experience when they do share the stage together.

"The Vamps have always been a really free and easy spirit," he says. "We've really only rehearsed together two or three times in the years we've been together, and when we get together, it's more like a party. The seven of us are friends seeing each other, and I think people pick up on that."

In addition to the band's annual Dec. 22 Duling Hall performance, The Vamps are hoping to schedule an anniversary show in February at Martin's Restaurant & Bar, the first venue to host the group 20 years ago. —Micah Smith

Finalists: Jessie Primer III (reverbnation.com/jessieprimeriii) / Pam Confer (Jazz Beautiful) / Raphael Semmes / Vibe Doctors Jazz Project ([email protected])

Best Musician: Jason Turner


Photo courtesy Jason Turner

(Jason Turner Band, jasonturnerband.com)

Not much has changed for singer-songwriter Jason Turner since he last took the Best Musician title in 2017. That's not to say things have been quiet for the acoustic rocker, who has maintained a busy slate of solo and full-band performances around the state.

In recent months, the Jason Turner Band, which also includes Dan Joyner on bass and Chris Crawford on drums, has been putting the finishing touches on a new EP. Turner plans to release it in early 2018 before moving on to his eighth full-length.

He says even being a finalist for the Best Musician category was a surprise—one that he chalks it up in part to name recognition after performing in the Jackson area for nearly 20 years.

"What I've learned is that we have as much talent as anywhere else," he says. "... I think the only thing we're lacking is that we need more support from people, and even the bands supporting each other would be great." —Micah Smith

Finalists: Chad Wesley (Chad Wesley Band, chadwesley
band.com) / Hunter Gibson (Hunter Gibson & the Gators, huntergibson.com) / Lynlee Healing Webb (Phantom Mile) / Raphael Semmes

Best Karaoke DJ: Angela Pittman


Photo courtesy Angela Pittman

(Krazy Karaoke)

This year's winner for Best Karaoke DJ is also one of the longest-running names in the field. Angela Pittman, who also won the title in 2017, has been hosting karaoke events for about 25 years.

"I love music, and I've been in music my whole life, but karaoke is about letting someone else have the opportunity to shine for a moment," she says. "The singers I have, they feel like they're on 'American Idol' or something when they're on there, you know? It's special to them, so it's special to me."

Today, Pittman's business, Krazy Karaoke, hosts weekly events across the Jackson metro area, Mondays through Wednesdays at Burgers & Blues in Ridgeland, Wednesdays at Bill's Creole and Steak Depot in Flora, Thursdays at T'Beaux's Crawfish & Catering in Pocahontas, and Fridays at Route 471 in Brandon. —Micah Smith

Finalists: Cory Drake / DJ Stache ([email protected]) / Matt Collette (Karaoke with 
Matt Collette)

Best Live Music Venue: Duling Hall


Photo courtesy Duling Hall

(622 Duling Ave., 601-292-7121, dulinghall.com)

Jacksonians have voted Duling Hall as the city's Best Live Music Venue for a fourth consecutive year, but that legacy is not the only reason for its winning streak.

In 2017, Arden Barnett and his team at Ardenland continued to bring in international touring acts, including Dawes, Robert Earl Keen, Cindy Wilson and Pokey LaFarge, while also providing a space for special events from Mississippi artists, such as Ben Ford and Sam Mooney. However, the venue also expanded on its offerings, with more variety in the types of entertainment.

Jackson residents were able to see hip-hop artists Curren$y and Isaiah Rashad, indie-pop bands The JAG and Rainbow Kitten Surprise, reggae group The Wailers and a cappella act Street Corner Symphony, among many others, all at the same venue. Not bad for an old schoolhouse. —Micah Smith

Finalists: Hal & Mal's (200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888, halandmals.com) / Martin's Restaurant & Bar (214 S. State St., 601-354-9712, martinsbar39201.com) / 
Spacecamp (3002 N. Mill St., spacecampjxn.com) / 
The Hideaway (5100 Interstate 55 N., 601-291-4759, thehideawayms.com) / Underground 119 (119 S. President St., 601-944-0907, underground119.com)

Sexiest Female Bartender: Courtney Boykin


Photo courtesy Courtney Boykin

(Ole Tavern on George Street, 416 George St., 601-960-2700, oletavern.com)

Courtney Boykin, this year's winner for Sexiest Female Bartender, says that she has always liked the idea of bartending. Before starting at Ole Tavern on George Street six years ago, she bartended at restaurants such as Logan's Roadhouse and Mugshots Grill & Bar in Flowood.

While she doesn't have a particular favorite drink to make, Boykin says she likes when customers tell her what they normally drink and trust her to make something that they will enjoy.

A vital part of bartending for her is to treat first-time customers like she has known them for a long time, Boykin says, so that even new faces can feel like regulars.

"Always try to make a new friend every day," she says. "... And there are always, always, always opportunities to learn." —Amber Helsel

Finalists: Jenifer Simcox (Fondren Public, 765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589, fondren
public.com) / Kirby Coutch (Fenian's Pub, 901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, fenians
pub.com) / Kree Blackwell (WonderLust, 3911 Northview Drive, 337-378-9003) / Kristen Thompson (Lou's Full-Serv, 904B E. Fortification St., 601-487-6359, lousfullserv.com)

Best R&B Artist/Group: Mike Rob and the 601 Band


Photo courtesy Osiris Photography


In Best of Jackson, it is rare to see someone win without having been a finalist for the past few years, but that is exactly what happened with 2018's Best R&B Artist/Group, Mike Rob and the 601 Band.

Since forming in 2009, the group has performed classic and contemporary R&B hits all around the region. Today, the lineup includes vocalists Mike Robinson and Tiffiany Haywood, drummer Frank White, bassist Sky Chambers, keyboardist and background vocalist Kevin Culver, guitarist Jeremy McCoy, saxophonist Bobby Conner, and trumpeter Richard Beverly.

Robinson says that being mentioned among Jackson's R&B greats is humbling.

"Me and the 601 go out and do what we do week after week, and the applause is there after we finish, but it's good to know that the music touches the people after they leave the club," he says. —Brinda Fuller Willis

Finalists: Clouds & Crayons (cloudsandcrayons.band) / JPride (jpride.bandcamp.com) / 
Kerry Thomas (artistecard.com/kerrythomasmusic)

Best Place to Play Pool: The Green Room


Trip Burns/File Photo

(444 Bounds St., 601-713-3444)

The Green Room is the closest thing to a true dynasty that you'll find in Best of Jackson. The last time that the pool hall lost the award for Best Place to Play Pool was way back in 2005 when W.C. Don's took the title. Even then, it got its share of appreciation.

In that year's Best of Jackson issue, the late, great JFP Events Editor Herman Snell wrote, "The Green Room, second-best place to shoot pool, is more of an upscale locale that hosts tournaments. If you're interested in going pro as a pool-shooter, then the Green Room is the place to start around here."

More than a decade later, that sentiment still rings true. In addition to being a popular local spot for bar food, the Green Room is a favorite haunt of serious pool players looking to up their game. —Micah Smith

Finalists: One Block East (642 Tombigbee St., 601-944-0203, oneblockeast.com) / Pop's Saloon (2636 S. Gallatin St., 601-961-4747) / Sam's Lounge (5035 Interstate 55 N., 601-983-2526) / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com)

Best Place to Dance: Shucker's Oyster Bar

(116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com)

Shucker's Oyster Bar in Ridgeland tends to be a fixture in several Best of Jackson categories each year but none more frequently than Best Place to Dance. Voters have given that title to the restaurant and bar for the third year in a row.

One of the reasons that Shucker's is a perpetual competitor for the award is that its multiple stages offer different types of live music in the same space, often in a single evening.

Most nights of the week, it is a safe bet for getting your dance on, whether you want to head-bang to big, boisterous rock acts such as Hairicane or Spank the Monkey, or slow dance on the deck to acoustic tunes from artists such as Chad Perry or Josh Journeay. —Micah Smith

Finalists: Bee Hall (Hinds Community College Raymond campus, 608 Hinds Blvd., Raymond, 601-857-5261, hindscc.edu) / F. Jones Corner (303 N. Farish St., 601-983-1148, fjonescorner.com) / Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700, oletavern.com) / WonderLust (3911 Northview Drive, 337-378-9003)

Best Rock Artist/Group: Stonewalls


Photo courtesy Corinthian Washington


The members of rock act Stonewalls have been performing in Jackson since around 2014, but guitarist Zac Clarke says he attributes their first win for Best Rock Artist/Group in part to their fun atmosphere onstage and their work over the last year.

Clarke says that he, vocalist Matthew Simonton, keyboardist John David Harrison, drummer Mitchell Phillips and bassist J.W. Herring played more shows than ever in 2017, slowing down recently to work on new music. They plan to record a follow-up to their 2016 EP, "Change the Subject," in spring of this year.

"We're kind of getting a little more alternative, I'd like to say," Clarke says. "I'm not going to say we're getting away from the blues-iness because that's always going to be a part of it, but we're definitely heading in a little more of a hard-rock kind of direction." —Micah Smith

Finalists: Bad Magic (badmagic420.bandcamp.com) / Dream Cult (wearedreamcult.com) / Framing the Red (framing
thered.com) / Young Valley (youngvalleymusic.com)


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